One of the biggest drawcards of a cruise holiday is the convenience – and the fact that a cruise ship is a cashless floating island is a major convenience. On a cruise, you don’t need to carry cash on you, or worry about foreign exchange, as you get to charge everything to your account and pay your bill at the end (you may still need cash when you go onshore though).
But, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to think about a budget for your travel money, because you do after all still have to pay the bill at the end of the holiday – they don’t let you wash the dishes to pay it off unfortunately!
Thought everything was included in your cruise fare? You’d be about 90% right. Your primary transport (the ship), your food (buffet and main restaurant), accommodation (your cabin) and basic entertainment are all included in the fare that you pay when you book your holiday, so that is about 90% of your holiday budget accounted for.
However, there are a few “extras” that require payment – and we really do mean extras. These are all things that you don’t have to buy to have an amazing holiday, but if you do decide that you want them, then you should think about how much you’re willing to spend on the extras and have a budget in mind when you’re on the ship.
So what are these extras? It does vary by cruise line and cruise ship, but generally you need to pay for any alcoholic drinks, beauty services like massages and pamper treatments, dining at any of the alternative (read fancy) restaurants, Wi-Fi usage, shore excursions, bingo, gambling money at the casino etc.
You can still charge all of these things to your account with the wave of your room card and a signature, but we would suggest doing a bit of research to find out how much these things might cost for your specific cruise ship and then putting together a bit of a budget so you can easily afford to pay for them at the end of the holiday.
You are able to settle your account in cash, or pay using your credit card, and usually the cruise ship requires you to settle your account on the last night of the cruise so it isn’t a massive rush for everyone to do it the morning of disembarkment.
Something else to take into account when you work out your cruise holiday budget is tipping. The staff on the cruise ship are usually paid a low wage and they rely on tips to supplement their income. Sometimes basic tips for your cabin steward/ess and waiter/ess are included in your fare, but you should check this when you book – if they aren’t then you will need to factor a bit extra in for your “extras” budget.
Sometimes tips are automatically included in the bill, so also check this before you add anything on – you might see a tip automatically added to your drinks bill as you buy a round, so you don’t need to tip bartenders separately, and your final account may include the tips for your steward and waiter. But if you feel like you had exceptional service from any particular staff member, you can also decide to leave a separate cash tip for them before you disembark.
We suggest checking the website of your cruise line to find out what their tipping (or gratuities) policy is, so that you aren’t left without cash when you need it.
You can book shore excursions through the cruise ship and have the cost added to your account so you don’t need to pay for them separately, or you can organise your own activities when you disembark in port.
If you do this, and while you’re on land, you will probably need some cash with you to pay for your activity, get some food or drinks, buy souvenirs etc.
Usually there will be an ATM on your cruise ship where you can withdraw some cash (this is likely to have a fee attached, much like using an ATM at the airport), or foreign exchange services may be offered at the purser’s desk on the ship. Most ports will accept the major credit cards, but I wouldn’t bank on it. We recommend checking what currency is used in the ports you are stopping at, and maybe exchanging a little bit of cash before you go. The exchange rates on the ship and in the port are unlikely to be the best rates available, and this way you also then don’t need to waste any of the time you have in port trying to find somewhere to sort out your foreign exchange.
If you aren’t sure which currencies you will need, any of our FXperts will be happy to help you – they can give you currency information as well as the rate available on the day. Find your nearest store by clicking here.
There is no straightforward answer as to how much money you should take on your cruise or what you should budget for – it really depends on you and what type of holiday you want to have. If you’re just interested in what’s included and don’t think you’ll dine at the speciality restaurants, or drink too many cocktails, then you won’t need to budget for as much as someone who might want to take advantage of happy hour, get a massage every second day and gamble in the onboard casino.
A cruise holiday is generally very good value for money, and the extras don’t have to cost you a lot – or even anything at all if you’re happy with what’s included in your cruise fare. How much you spend on the “extras” and onshore is completely up to you. If you have an idea of what you might like to spend money on, you can do a bit of research on your cruise ship – there is loads of information available online – and work out how much those massages might cost and what drinks are worth etc. That should give you an idea of what you will get for your holiday money and help you to work out how much you’re willing to spend each day.
If you have been on a cruise recently and have any other travel money tips you would like to share, we would love to hear them! Or if you’re about to head off on one and would like to exchange some cash for your port stops, then visit any of our stores or order ahead of time through our website. You can also find your nearest store using the Store Finder Tool on our website.
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